1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the fraudulent.…
The Israelites were a pastoral people. For although in the time of the apostle the pastoral life had largely given way to the agricultural, yet all their history, all those elements which excited their imagination and rejoiced their patriotism, were of the pastoral character. It went into their poetry, and the agricultural and pastoral figures exceed in number, and certainly equal in exquisite beauty, any others that are to be found in the whole range of not only the Bible, but of universal literature. This is eminently seen in the Old Testament, but the New Testament is not without a trace of such a feeling. Here we are called wanderers. Men that are converted are the men that have wand: red away from the right ideals of life, and have been brought back again; they were wanderers. We are represented as going astray from right dispositions, and from right actions, and from right directions. Our aims, our conduct, and our character are malformed. Religion in the soul is what the right use of the organs is to the body. When all the organs of a man's body are carried on according to the laws of nature you have health. So when a man has gone astray, he has lost nothing, except the right use of himself. He has not lost will power; he has not lost intellectual power. And when a man is recalled from wandering, and it is said he is born again, we mean that from his wrong use of himself he turns toward the right use of himself. He is brought to recognise a higher standard of living, body, mind, and soul, and enters upon that better understanding. Then we say he has been recalled by his shepherd; he has returned. Every organ of the body is, according to the design of God in nature, good. It is wrong use that produces evil. Every faculty of the human mind and soul is right and needful to the body and soul, to social relations and universal truth. But the wrong use of right things is sinfulness. It may be in a single act, or in a continuity of acts until they become habit; then it is character; and character is nothing but an automatic practice of wrong uses induced by individual acts of sin. Now, on the other hand, when a man is called of God, here is the one grand ideal: "Love is the fulfilling of the law." He who carries his whole nature obediently to the grand law of love and all its interpretations in God's Word, that man has been restored to himself, and in so far to his God. Conversion, then, is the beginning, under inspiration's teaching, an example of the reconstruction of a man's voluntary life. It is the beginning of rebuilding character and conduct, on the basis of love. It is the beginning. It is no more than the beginning. The Church is not, then, an assembly of saints. It is a school with all manner of instruments that are designed to help men. Merely being in the Church does not save men. It is an assembly of men beginning, mostly, and certainly the incoming into any Church is of men that have been lost, wandered, gone out of pasture, gone away, and they are called back again. A man coming into the Christian Church is coming into right conditions in which be may learn how to rectify the aberrations of his conduct, and, so far as his nature has been positively made morbid, rectify his nature. A man has found out that the way of his life, the way of selfishness, of pride and evil passions is the bad way; it is contrary to God and nature — the best nature — contrary to the welfare of society, of the family, and of the individual. He is so convinced of it that in covenant, in his secret thought with God he says, "If Thou wilt help me, I will from this hour" undertake to re-educate myself into the Christ spirit." If you want to know whether you are sinful or not, just take any of these great characteristic commands of Jesus Christ; take any point of example in Himself, any conduct, anywhere, and try it on. How shall a man know whether his clothes fit or not? He goes into a store and says to his tailor, "Look here, how do 1 know what size I want?" He looks at him a moment, then takes a boy's coat and says, "Try that on, if you please." He gets one arm half way down, and he can't find any armhole on the other side. "Oh, that is a world too small for me. I can't get into that." Try moral qualities in the same way. You have one text that leads to this very analogy or figure, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ," as a garment. Put it on your con science. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ as an element of love. Put on the saving and helping of men, instead of hating men. Try on each one of these Christian graces, and see whether they fit you, or whether you can get them on. A person should come into the Church of Christ joyfully, yet not so much on account of attainment, but because he has put himself now in the way of attaining, and may hope to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ unto the end.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.